Amazing support act, a wild violin and handwritten lyrics

Ragnar Ólafsson – Christiania, Prešov; February 23rd, 2018

Ragnar’s third Poland tour extended into Slovakia so I figured it’s be a good opportunity to see that country again, especially because it was a weekend. It is also Ragnar’s first tour with a violin player by his side and while I could not really imagine those songs with an added violin I was sure curious about hearing them. Turns out I picked the perfect show to come to. From David’s amazing violin playing to the atmosphere at the venue and the great support act, everything was perfect and the guys both agreed that this was their best gig on the tour so far. I loved every minute of it, smiling happily all night.

I flew from Cologne directly to Košice and took a train to Prešov from there. It took a long time all in all, but there were still a few hours left to explore the city before it got dark. The city looked nice, even without sunshine and on my walk, I encountered a “Mansion on the hill”, i.e. saw a beautiful building in the distance, but could not figure out how to get there. The next morning I did. It turned out to be a church and the view across the city from up there was beautiful. 🙂 Found the venue, then went back to my hotel to get some rest before the show. Returned a few hours later, found a nice seat at a center table and was looking forward to the show.

First up were local band Deni and they were bloody amazing. Just a singer and a guitar player, they captivated me instantly. Her voice was beautiful and his playing was great. I loved them from the first song and really enjoyed the entire set. Towards the end, the power went out and they just continued in the dark, without any amplification. After a few moments some people in the room pointed their phone flashlights at them so we could still see. It was wonderful. <3 On the way to the bathroom I ran into Ragnar. We hugged and talked for a moment, agreeing on how good Deni were.

Soon it was showtime. Ragnar and violinist David walked on stage and picked up their instruments. After a little tuning they started the show with ‘SSDD’. It sounded absolutely amazing with the added violin. Apparently the song needs a second instrument to speak to me and with the violin it worked even better than with a second guitar on the last tour. When Ragnar he screwed up the lyrics at one point I smiles, especially because he looked at me just then, knowing that I knew. Things like that always make concerts more memorable for me. 🙂

He said how proud he was to play Slovakia with his solo project and introduced David. Then he thanked Deni for being an amazing support. Referring to he power outage during their set, he said he wanted to do the same, unplugged his guitar and stepped to the very front of the stage for ‘Wine’. The sound was great, plugged or not. Ragnar wanted to try a new song next and told us with new songs it felt like being a bird parent kicking them out of the nest and seeing if they could fly. He told us the story of Deva and why he wrote the song he was going to play next. The song had evolved a lot since I’d heard it in Tórshavn. The violin fit beautifully and I felt it was flying much better than it had there. I especially loved the intro and the chorus. The lyrics are close to my heart already and now I love the music that goes with it too. <3

He asked how many of us spoke Icelandic and of course nobody did, so the night’s language of choice was English. He introduce ‘War’ as a song about the war inside. David didn’t play on this one, but sang harmony, which worked really well. 🙂 Next we heard the story of how ‘Bravery’ came about. The nightly routine involved John building a fire and Ragnar writing a song and of course that asked for alcohol. Bad drinks like Jägermeister Vanilla apparently lead to great music. It must have truly tasted awful, because he is still talking about it. 😉 This was a song I’d been looking forward to, because I thought it would be great with a violin on there and it was. 😀

The big surprise of the night was ‘Relations’ though. I’d always liked the piano version better than the guitar version and even with two guitars I still felt it was missing something. Since there was no piano in the room that night I had not expected to hear it at all. When explaining what he expected us to sing, Ragnar just gave different examples including opera style. It turned into banter with David about pointing and laughing at people. 😉 The sing along worked nicely, but the best part was the violin. It turned into a totally different song. Wow!

‘Every Brick in Manhattan’ was back on the setlist and it made me very happy. After my recent visit to New York City I really wanted to hear it again. We learned that the poem which is the basis for the song was written in a bar on a beer napkin. The banter between David and Ragnar continued and I totally loved it. Later I thought it mind me because it reminded me of Martin and James. Either way, it was funny. The song was probably the best version I#d heard of it. <3

Next he told us about spending 30 days on a houseboat named ‘Southern Nights’ and announced the song as “the happiest thing I have ever written”. The song too, had evolved much since I’d heard it the last time around, with a distinct country feel. It was really fun and brought us another opportunity to sing along as well. Back in Tórshavn he had added a lot of explanations mid-song, but all those were gone now and it flowed much better. I was really starting to like it. We did learn though that singing is “a tenth of an orgasm” – really? Are you turning Svavar on me now? 😛

‘Urges’ immediately followed. That was a nice contrast to the previously happy mood. David picked the violin strings for part of that, it was really nice. With the last song he asked us if there were banjo players in the house and David added that it is a cross between a guitar and a snare drum. This lead to the funny story of playing at a festival where the sound guy had never seen a baritone guitar. 😀 ‘Scar’ was amazing. Every version of that song is and I still have the feeling it is evolving. <3

Of course we would not let them go after that and loudly demanded encores. The first one was ‘Needle and Thread’. At the start of the tour there had been a snipped of that from a radio show and it sounded even better right then and there. *happy sigh* No wonder Ragnar said it’s his current favorite song. One extra song was not enough and explaining what a murder ballad is lead to ‘Where the wild Roses grow’. Ragnar asked Deni’s singer on stage for it, but unfortunately she did not know the lyrics and could only hum along. It was nice though. ‘Sleep now’ was the last song then and they even walked into the audience for that. It always makes for a good end of the show.

I loved the show. It was a great setlist, even without duets. I wondered if they had been dropped completely, but I would find out soon. The only one song I was missing was ‘A Prayer’. I had imagined that as being amazing with a violin, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be. There is no reason to complain though, not the slightest. I could not have imagined a better start to this tour. 😀

After the concert I sat down with Ragnar for a chat and asked him to handwrite the lyrics to my song for me. he gladly obliged and now I have something to frame and put on my wall. We chatted a bit longer before I said goodbye to both of them because I really needed sleep. I’d have another chance to hang out with them the next day.

pictures of this concert

Ragnar Poland/Slovakia tour winter 2018: 1 gig down, 6 to go

Setlist

SSDD
Wine
Deva
War
Bravery
Relations
Every Brick in Manhattan
Southern Nights
Urges
Scar

Needle and Thread
Where the wild Roses grow
Sleep now

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